Scottsville, that little hamlet perched above the James River, certainly has increased its business offerings over the years, making it an ideal 15 mile or so side jaunt from Charlottesville via scenic Route 20.
One Scottsville restaurant whose reputation goeth before it is the Smoke House Grille, reputedly a farm-to-table restaurant, though you’ll find only three specific references to local providers — Caromont Farm cheeses, Albemarle Baking Company bread, and Rappahanock River Oysters — on their website, which seems a missed opportunity.
Websites are as big a part of destination dining and lodging and attractions as anything else since they are often the key to getting you there. And let’s face it, though Scottsville’s not that far from C-Ville, if you want to attract people, you really need to make the case.
It’s a missed opportunity for partner-farms and providers as well, which should get some mojo from the relationship to help build their Virginia-based business, helping ensure that they’ll be able to keep supplying you. I’d love to see an improvement here on both the menu and in live links on the (very tired and dated looking) Website.
My bad luck
But, since I had heard such great things about this restaurant, and as a farm-to-table advocate and foodie, I was thrilled to have a nicer choice in Scottsville and I couldn’t wait to go. Sadly I ended up with bad luck almost the whole night.
I started with fried green tomatoes, which is always a fave of mine, but this batch was unfortunately flavorless. Not just a little flavorless, utterly flavorless. They were served with a sauce that tasted like a glorified 1,000 Island dressing at best. It broke my heart.
I wasn’t too hung up on that though and asked for the beet salad and, surprisingly, again, it was a big blah — there was nothing distinct about the flavors, with the salad as a whole drenched in its dressing to the exclusion of any subtlety. The croutons, which were too amply provided, seemed like they came from a box — only bulk, no taste.
After these two disappointments I decided that I didn’t need an entree and just waited as my hubby had his.
Erik’s stomach rules taste
He had the pulled pork and he thought it was great — then again he was starving and is never too picky. But I gave it a bite and to me it was choking under the weight of liquid smoke. I enjoyed no subtlety of flavor profile, just one smokey hue throughout.
The pork came with an indistinct coleslaw on the side absent any tang, herbal note, or bite.
Our waiter also couldn’t describe the beers on offer, making it tough to decide on a drink to accompany the food. I would think in a farm-to-table marketed joint, you’d be schooling your wait staff on your beers and wines so they could offer professional assistance for diners. This was a huge stumble.
The bathrooms were very clean, the dining room and bar are decidedly pretty, and the two-story federal-inspired country farm house where the restaurant lives is walkable to everything in the town proper, always a nice thing for travelers to a small town.
We sat on the back porch since it was such a lovely day and though the view is just of a green embankment above Mink Creek, still, it was a very nice spot.
The interior of the rest of the place was laid out well, being both comfortable, and cleanly appointed.
I know I need to give this place another chance the next time I’m in Scottsville because I can’t imagine I’d be unlucky twice. Also, the last time I went there were no other restaurants in Scottsville purporting to be about the cuisine — more like sports bars with big screen TVs and ads for cheap beer draped across their exteriors. (Perhaps the local historic district might want to do something about that.)
However, I’m not sure when we’ll go back.
We live in Staunton where we’re spoiled by the likes of the Shack and Zynodoa and Mike Lundch, so, given that Scottsville is not too far, I’d have to know it was a top notch farm-to-table, chef-driven restaurant, too. So far, not so much.
I’d like to imagine I hit them on a bad night. But my instinct says it’s time for the chef to step up his or her game.
We like to visit Scottsville so I’d like to hear about some improvements made to the cooking style or something to get me interested in trying it again. They could start with updates to the website, a newer menu, and detailing on both a better sense of their farm providers. They ned to do more than just use the farm-to-table signifier, but also show how the chef’s philosophy and background, as well as his or her relationships to farmers, drives the concept.
— Lindsay Curren, Girl Goes Virginia
The Smokehouse Grille
515 Valley Street
Scottsville, Virginia 24590
Hours: 11am – 9pm Tuesday though Thursday
11am – 10pm Friday & Saturday
Sunday Brunch 11am – 2pm, dinner til 9pm